Mobile Broadcast Units Bring Audio Onboard
by Stephen Murphy
The historically delineated worlds of professional audio and video production have increasingly become intertwined. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the remote broadcasting industry.
Mobile video units have been incorporating sophisticated audio facilities into formerly video-only remote trucks at an impressive rate. In addition, newly commissioned outside television broadcast units are frequently designed from the ground up with equal concern for audio and video.
A closely related trend in mobile broadcasting is the installation of smaller-footprint digital audio consoles that offer mix capabilities that far exceed their much-larger analog counterparts. Whether in integrated video/audio or audio-only mobile units, multiple-mix format digital consoles have all but replaced analog boards in remote broadcasting.
A quick scan of recently commissioned broadcast trucks provides a glimpse into the motivation behind integrated and improved audio for mobile video production: Almost all the major trucks launched in the past year were designated as high-definition mobile production units.
As high-definition remote broadcast production increases, so too does the demand for high-quality multi-channel audio to accompany the visuals.
Small is Beautiful
Sony’s popular small-format DMX-R100 digital console has found its way into a number of mobile audio-for-broadcast trucks. For independent A/V production companies such as UK-based Floating Earth, the 48-input DMX-R100 offers a high degree of mix and routing flexibility in a very small footprint at an affordable price point.
Floating Earth is known in England for its audiophile broadcast support of classical concerts. They have ensured high-quality audio transmission by placing the analog-to-digital audio conversion process at the stage end. Converted digital audio is sent the audio to the Sony console via a custom fiber-optic link, eliminating long and noisy analog cable runs to the truck. The fiber link also makes it easy to send a multitrack feed to an archive recorder while the Sony board provides the live broadcast mix.
On this side of the pond, HDNet, the first all high definition national television network uses its two Sony DMX-R100-equipped HD mobile units to produce a variety of high-definition programming including live sports coverage of NHL and Major League Soccer games, Division 1 college football and basketball, horse racing, boxing, CART auto racing and The Harlem Globetrotters.
“The Sony board provides the ideal package of inputs and outputs for the
requirements of these two mobile units, combining excellent handling of 5.1
audio, built-in delay, compression and many other features. It has proven
to be an excellent choice and very reliable,” says Philip Garvin, co-founder and general manager of HDNet.
High-definition broadcasts of sports and other live events are a major motivation behind the latest generation of HD-ready audio/video mobile rigs.
“High-definition broadcasting has already begun to redefine the way consumers watch programming, but where HDTV will have the biggest impact will be in sports and live entertainment,” says Mark Howorth, CEO of New Jersy-based National Mobile Television (NMT).
Earlier this year, NMT, a leading provider of mobile high definition television facilities, specified a Solid State Logic SSL MT Plus Digital Production Console for the company’s fourth high-definition mobile unit, HD4.
The busy mobile production company currently provides facilities and services for more than 6000 sporting, entertainment and other events per year. NMT’s major broadcast clients include ABC Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox News, Fox Sports and The Madison Square Garden Network.
Chicago-based Trio Video recently installed a 48-fader, 88-channel Calrec Alpha 100 digital console in its new HD remote unit. The console is being fitted into a 53-foot long/47-food expando truck to be officially launched this December.
"We decided on the Alpha because of its architecture and ease of operation," says Carl Roszczybiuk, Trio's Director of Engineering.
The new HD unit will be Trio’s fifth remote truck, and the first to feature a digital console. “We have had great success with the [Calrec analog] S2 console and look to the Alpha to broaden our appeal to our clients,” says Trio co-owner Jack Walsh. Trio Video currently provides remote facilities and services for approximately 800 events per year, the majority of which are live sporting events.
Familiarity Breeds Contentedness
Belgian mobile production company Outside Broadcast recently installed its second AMS Neve Libra Live digital console, this one going into its new high-definition broadcasting vehicle. The company’s Unit 9 truck was commissioned to meet the growing demand for high-definition mobile broadcasting in Europe.
“Our reason for choosing the Libra Live is plain and simple. We are very satisfied with our Libra Live in Unit 8,” explained Outside Broadcast Head of Sound Frank Mosch.
“We did look at other options, but there really aren’t any other mixers with such flexibility and such a small footprint,” he added.
Euphonix consoles have enjoyed a high degree of success this year in the international mobile broadcasting sports arena. The company’s range of consoles – including its latest digital broadcast console, Max Air – were used for several high-profile sporting event remotes.
Seven Networks employed three Max Air digital mixing systems at the Australian Tennis Open to provide countrywide live broadcasts and feeds to 25 international broadcasters.
Television New Zealand’s Moving Pictures outside broadcast division installed a 96-channel, 32-fader Max Air console in its latest mobile unit, which was promptly used to cover the New Zealand Golf Open.
“We were very comfortable with Euphonix because of our history with the CS console. It was time for us to make the change to all-digital audio and after checking out other consoles we settled on the Euphonix Max Air,” explained Eric Rudolphe, general manager of TVNZ Moving Pictures. “It has all the features we need, it’s very powerful for its size and comes within our budget…and the level of redundancy and backup is very reassuring when you consider the rigors of OB work.”
Yamaha consoles also remain a popular choice in mobile video production. A 96-input Yamaha PM1D, is installed in Westbrook, Maine-based CSP Mobile Productions’ Unit 6 truck. CSP, like most of the other video and audio production truck owners profiled, boasts a healthy list of major sports clients for its services including ESPN, American Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League and World Cup Soccer and many others.
Many Sends, Happy Returns
Driven by the increasingly voracious appetite for broadcast high-definition programming, “audio corners” are being expanded into full-fledged control rooms within the video-centric world of remote television broadcasting. The latest generation of digital consoles reduces the space and budget necessary to bring remote audio up to HD spec, and manufacturers of reliable, high-quality products recognize that happy end users tend to return when it is time once again to expand.
Stephen Murphy, contributing studio editor of Pro Audio Review, is a multimedia producer and audio engineer/producer with Grammy-winning and platinum-selling credits.